Red Letters

Red Letters

Making a Big Show of our Tiny Gifts

Do you ever ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough?”

I’m not talking about sheer busy-ness–but are you doing enough of what really matters? How would you know if you were? And can’t you always do a little bit more?

It’s a haunting question for me. One that I think about when buying a coffee at Starbucks or going to the movies or buying a new book.

I think of the end of Schindler’s List where Oskar Schindler realizes his watch and gold pin could have saved a few more Jews from the concentration camps. Surrounded by over 1,000 survivors–alive because of his sacrifices–he is haunted by the idea that he might have saved just a few more…even one more.


The emotional weight of that scene is tremendous. While some find it manipulative, I think it’s emotional power comes from the universality of the question: “Have I done enough?”  In some way, we can all access that question from our own perspective and in our own lives.

Here is a thought-provoking article from The Oasis blog. The author’s family is in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia, and they are wrestling through many of the emotions and struggles inherent in that process. Missy writes:

There is a major dilemma that we all must face as Christians at some point.  As Americans, we are ALL wealthy in comparison to the rest of this world.  As Americans, we are known to the rest of this world as a “Christian nation”.


Americans give to the hungry at a low percentage of their GNP (gross national product) in comparison to other nations.  What are we, as individual wealthy Christian Americans, telling the poverty-stricken world around us about Jesus Christ?  What are we telling the world about the Gospels?

We are the rich, making a big show of our tiny gifts.

Since WWII, trillions of dollars have been given in foreign aid to address the problems of hunger, of disease, of dirty water, and of education. As I mentioned in a previous post, much of this is “bad aid” that fosters dependency. We have cut off the developing world from global trade and free markets that could help hardworking people transform themselves.


So as the rich West, we may have trillions of dollars of aid to make a show of… What the poor really need are trade partners and free markets. That is the most liberating gift we could give!

The greatest gift we could give the developing world is a thriving system of trade that empowered the poorest and most vulnerable entrepreneurs–helping them earn a proper wage to become self-sufficient. 

In this regard, I think we are NOT doing enough. We are not opening these avenues of economic development fast enough…although they are coming. We do make a big deal about our “foreign aid” dollars, even though they are only about 1% of the federal budget.

I encourage you to read all of Missy’s article here, as it addresses many critical issues in adoption ethics, and personally think she lands on the right conclusion to all of this. (You’ll have to read it to see if you agree.)

Comments read comments(4)
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posted September 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

Thanks for saying what many of us would rather not hear.

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posted September 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm

This is amazing. Thank you. I am humbled and honored. I wish I could say more here, as I am someone who always has something to say, but I am finding myself speechless.

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posted September 23, 2011 at 2:38 pm

What is really sad is that our companies have gone in and ruined a lot of these peoples homeland, making it un-usable to them, thus making them unable to support themselves… We need to get our consumerism out of the world, and give people their lives back. Then we could help them in a much more meaningful way, then trying to get them hooked on our messed up way of life!

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posted September 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I would like to encourage everyone who supports the idea of “good aid” to consider sponsoring a child. When you give the gift of sacrificial love and allow the future generation to know that helping someone you don’t know produces results, you will encourage them to grow up to help themselves and others as well. A child who is saved from starvation could grow up to be someone who saves others from the same. It is a way to aid the future generations by teaching them BY EXAMPLE that their people and country are worth saving. Please check out

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